CHARLESTON -- Jacobs junior Lauren Van Vlierbergen and Cary-Grove junior Morgan Schulz made the most of their opportunities at the Class 3A girls track preliminaries on Friday.
On a pleasant spring afternoon at Eastern Illinois University's O'Brien Stadium, Schulz flashed her speed by qualifying in both the 800 meters and 300 low hurdles.
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And Van Vlierbergen cruised to qualifying marks in both the 800 and 1,600.
The two are set for a memorable Saturday finals.
The IHSA finals for all three classes will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
Schulz started her day by battling Lane Tech senior Alexander Martel in the second heat of the 800. Martel and Schulz bumped a bit at the 100-meter mark, but continued to battle until the finish, with Martel (2:11.93) nipping Schulz (2:12.30) for the win at the line.
The Trojans' junior had clear sailing in winning her heat of the 300 low hurdles (43.02).
"After the 800 I was really tired," said Schulz who set a personal best with the second fastest qualifying mark in the 800. "But my adrenaline got me going in the 300 low hurdles and that helped carry me."
Schulz has definitely made her mark this season, but the junior was a bit surprised by her two marks on Friday.
"It did surprise me," said Schulz of her back-to-back performance. "I was calm going into the 800, and I just wanted to get out fast in the 300 low hurdles."
"She has the mental toughness to pull that double off," said Cary-Grove coach Mark Anderson of Schulz's performance. "I thought she was effortless with the way she raced today. She is a tough individual."
The same could be said of Van Vlierbergen. The Golden Eagles' junior started her day by winning the third heat of the 800 (2:14.53) with the fourth best qualifying mark.
Van Vlierbergen (5:00.04) then came back to nip Palatine sophomore Kelly O'Brien (5:00.09) and New Trier junior Mimi Smith (5:00.91) in the third heat of the 1,600 finals.
"I knew there were a lot of good runners, and I just wanted to make sure I made that final push to secure my spot," said Van Vlierbergen of her 1,600 performance. "It will be tough (Saturday) but there will be a lot girls to push you."
Last year Van Vlierbergen finished fourth in the Class 3A 1,600. This year the junior is looking to add to her medal count.
"Both races she ran smart," said Jacobs coach Ryan Lemanski of Van Vlierbergen's performance. "She did what she needed to do. She has that kick that can make a difference."
Cary-Grove had a hit-and-miss in the discus. Junior Olivia Roehri advanced to finals with a mark of 120 feet, 10 inches, but sophomore Nikki Freeman (120-09) missed advancing by one spot.
Streamwood junior Gabby Jaurez pushed through to the finals in the 1,600 (5:04.70) and will also compete in the 3,200 finals on Saturday.
Juarez made a final surge in the final 50 meters, passing a runner that had fallen down to secure second in her heat of the 1,600.
"I took advantage of it," said Juarez. of her first state meet. "It was good to get some experience because I have never made it to state before. It sets me up for what is to come (Saturday)."
Huntley junior Delaney Lyman advanced in the pole vault (10-6).
In Class 2A Hampshire made its mark by qualifying in the 3,200 relay and senior Elizabeth Pagan advanced in the long jump (16-06).
Junior Natalie Sztuk Vel Sztuk, junior Trish Dumoulin, sophomore Elizabeth Evans, and sophomore Nikki Dumoulin pushed the Whip-Purs to a qualifying mark the 3,200 relay in 9:52.06.
"Our sectional performance was not the best," said Evans. "But we came in and gave it our best and are headed to the finals. We all came together as a team."